Saturday, February 25, 2006

Horsa Glider Manufacturers

There are references in the PW archive to Pollard's of Walthamstow and Earnshaw Bros & Booth of Burnley. I have not been able to find any other references to these companies. I'd be grateful for any leads.



Blogger Peter G said...


I suggest you email the webmaster of the Assault Glider Trust. You will find his email address at the bottom.

Sunday, 26 February, 2006  
Blogger Steve Wright said...


Thanks for the suggestion. It's this organisation I'm trying to find the information for. It's part of my volunteer role to research former glider manufacturers etc.

Monday, 27 February, 2006  
Blogger Frank Mee said...

The Horsa was made up of thirty separate parts manufactured by furniture company's all over the country. I am positive the local rumours included our own Hills Wood Manufacturing works now defunct.
The easily transported parts would be brought together and assembled by the RAF Maintenance units.
The prototype flew on the 12th Sept 1941. Harris Lebus furniture manufacturers get a mention.

WACO made in Troy Ohio and could carry a 75mm Howitzer plus 15 men and a jeep or quarter ton truck.

Hotspur Mk1-11 and Hengist which was Designed by John Carver Meadows Frost of De-Havilland

Hamilcar made by General Aircraft first flew 1942.
We had friends and relations in many of the local factories and got to know all kinds of things we were not supposed to know, which is how we knew Hills were making aircraft parts. I also knew as fact ICI engineering turned out Sten Guns but you will find no confirmation of this in any history books which is why we need the people who worked in those factories to tell their stories.
Hope this helps if you did not know it already.

Tuesday, 28 February, 2006  
Blogger Steve Wright said...


I meant to reply to your post earlier than this.

Thanks for the information on Hills Wood Manufacturing. Do you have any more you can tell me about the factory - location, any takeover, date it closed?

Saturday, 04 March, 2006  
Blogger Frank Mee said...

You have started something now, it looks like a cold trail but I have more options yet.
From memory Hills closed 15-20 years ago due to cheap imports. My Daughter in law worked there for a few years I will ask her what she knows only that was just before they closed. I have a contact for a couple of local history buffs and will try them it could be a long trail but if possible I will find something about those war years.

Monday, 06 March, 2006  
Blogger Frank Mee said...

I am on the case with F.Hills & Sons Stockton Works.
The trail is leading to Hillson Praga light planes made at their Manchester Works.
The Stockton Factory made Jablo propellors among other things.
I have in front of me a picture of a Hurricane with double wings or a By-plane as we called them. The plane was lent to Hills for trying out propellors and the By-plane version was a detachable wing made by hills so the Hurricane could take off with a heavy bomb load. The wing was then detached and the Hurricane became once more a Monoplane. This is all new to me and I am wondering where it will go next.
I will keep you up to date and if I can get the scanner to work post a photo of the By-plane Hurricane. They say truth is stranger than fiction.

Tuesday, 07 March, 2006  
Blogger Peter G said...


I have 2 photos of that experimental bi-plane. Only one Hurricane was lent to F. Hill & Son, that was an old Canadian Hurricane I supplied to Canada in 1938-39 as L1884. It was shipped back to Britain in 1940 as 321 for service with No. 1 Squadron RCAF for modification to accommodate the disposable upper wing.

The purpose was to give the Hurricane greater lift at take-off (a characteristic of all bi-planes) but then to jettison the extra wing on gaining height. This had nothing, however, to do with carrying bombs (a Hurricane has no bomb bay) it was to permit the Hurricane to carry a greater load of fuel so that they could fly direct to Malta and the Middle East.

The plane was known as the Hillson F.H.40 Slip-Wing Hurricane. This aircraft was still being flown at Boscombe Down in early 1944 - long after the need to fly fighters to Malta had passed.

Details and photos are in "The Hawker Hurricane - An Illustrated History" by Francis K Mason

Tuesday, 07 March, 2006  
Blogger Peter G said...

I should have said, of course, that modified Hurricanes, such as the 'Universal Wing' Hurricane Mark IV, did carry bombs. But these were slung under the 'universal' wing. It was dubbed 'Universal' because it could be mounted with eight- or twelve guns as well as bombs, drop tanks, ferry tanks, or other stores. Tests were carried out to fly the big 88-gallon ferry tanks and the widely used 44-gallon tanks - these fuel tanks were slung under the wings and jettisoned when empty. It was to improve lift off with these heavy fuel tanks that experiments were carried out with the 'bi-mono' Hurricane.

Tuesday, 07 March, 2006  
Blogger Frank Mee said...

The picture I have in front of me definitely shows a Bomb fastened under its belly. It was taken by Hills and the caption saya "To enable the plane to take off with a large bomb slung underneath" I will get it on the blog when the scanner ends its strike. Many strange things were experimented with during the war and then discarded this could be one of them.

Tuesday, 07 March, 2006  
Blogger Peter G said...


I have no doubt whatsoever that that is what the caption says. But that wasn't the reason for this experiment, it was to get Hurricanes to Malta and the Middle East by using a heavier fuel load.

America's entry into the war put an end to that with vast numbers of fighters being taken by ship to the Mediterranean, then with Italy out of the war and the campaign in Italy the threat to Malta receded.

The hugely successful De Havilland Mosquito also finished off any notion of using Hurricane bi-mono planes as bombers, with the Mk VI fighter-bomber being the most widely used of all Mosquito derivatives as a day and night intruder, becoming with the Mk XVI and its pressurised cabin, the main equipment of the RAF Light Night Striking Force.

Tuesday, 07 March, 2006  
Blogger Steve Wright said...


Thanks very much for your further research.


What an extraordinary aircraft the Slip-Wing Hurricane must have been. Hope Frank's scanner sorts itself out!

Tuesday, 07 March, 2006  
Blogger Frank Mee said...

The Stockton Joinery Firm F.Hills & Sons played a key role in the war.
In 1937 they built an aeronautical plywood factory at Manchester and had begun to produce the Jablo propellor which was a German invention, also the Praga light plane. They were therefore ready to produce them during the war.
Manchester as well as turning out propellors was also producing aircraft, the Proctor the Anson and the Oxford trainer.
Stockton was producing the propellors and aeronautical plywood as thin as one millimetre, it was used for the stressed skin of the Mosquito fighter the wings and flaps of the Oxford and Anson.
In 1942 Hills took over the York branch of Terry's chocolate factory and produced propellors for Spitfires Hurricanes and numerous other fighters and bombers plus 13,000 trailing edges for theAnson wings.
At the peak of the war 26 different organisation were functioning under the Hills name.
In a small workshop in Stockton strips of paper backed Aluminium were being produced to foil enemy Radar it was called windows.
Altogether Hills produced 480,000 Jablo blades, 812 Proctor aircraft, over 10,000,000 square feet of aeronautical plywood 6,000,000 of which went into the construction of the Mosquito.
There is no mention of making glider sections though I would bet my boots the aeronautical plywood was used for that purpose.
I will keep looking Steve and may dig up even more in between getting my new conservatory built.

One interesting fact I came across and again did not know was that ICI Engineering department at Billingham, designed and made the PIAT gun (Protector Infantry Anti Tank) by 1943 100,000 had been produced and six Victoria Crosses won by soldiers using the weapon.
Having used the said weapon I would say you earned the VC by just loading the thing without getting it wrapped around your neck.
The kick when you fired it drove you back half a mile as the powerful spring was re-cocked by the firing action, we all wore those cricket pads over the tender bits to save out manhood
I will keep dredging for you.

Wednesday, 08 March, 2006  
Blogger Peter G said...

We seem to be ramifying nicely. :)

Although the PIAT was mainly manufactured by ICI it wasn't designed by them. The concept and original design was that of a retired Royal Artillery office, Lt-Col Blacker involved with the Ministry of Defence Section 1 (MD1), the military establishment dedicated to unconventional weapons. In 1941 he produced a 29mm spigot mortar, known as the Blacker Bombard; this was used by the Home Guard and airfield defence units.

Much of the story is told here.

To add some details, Major Jefferis' improvement on Blacker's Baby Bombard became the Baby Bombard, 0.625 inch No.1 and it had its first trials in June 1941. But it wasn't until some months later that Major Jefferis developed an effective armour-penetrating hollow-charge warhead. With the new bomb the weapon went into production as the Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank (PIAT) with ICI, after final MD1 approval on 31 August, 1942.

Wednesday, 08 March, 2006  
Blogger Frank Mee said...

It may be as you say only the notes I saw and quote were;- In April 1942 the engineering department was commissioned to design the PIAT Gun.
I did know of the Blacker Bombard which our local DLI Home Guard refused to use saying it was far more dangerous to them than any enemy. The ones they had were more like a drain pipe on a stand, I thought a spigot mortar was more in the style of a mortar low to the ground and again a dangerous weapon to the users.

Of interest I came across a quote from a German airman on the German Radio. He had taken part in a raid on Middlesbrough. "The British AA defances were known to be very strong but this time they were reinforced by what we German Pilots call the Pilots Terror. The latest British AA shells. They look like a flaming shell which explodes high in the sky and falls down on our planes as numerous little shells. The whole thing looks like a firework".
They were what we all called flaming onions and were spectacular to watch. The battery was at Tilery about a mile away over the fields and they fired in battery's. It was actually a rocket fired from a launcher, they were manned mainly by the Home Guard.
Since I started this search all kinds of unknown facts are coming to light, I will go on searching those old files.

Thursday, 09 March, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My dad owned a third of Ernshaw Bros and Booth Burnley and they made parts for gliders during the 2nd world war.
Laurie Booth

Tuesday, 03 June, 2008  
Blogger Peter G said...


Welcome to our WW2 blog and many thanks for your interesting comment.

Could you tell us more about the history of Ernshaw Bros and Booth Burnley? I would be delighted to hear of any anecdotes you have of the company.

Sorry for the belated reply, I only got round to checking the Archive this morning.


Friday, 04 July, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If its of any use; Horsa Gliders fuselages were constructed at Earnshaw Brothers and Booth who had a small furniture factory situated on Albert Street, Burnley, Lancashire - the factory was single storey possibly an old weaving shed as the roof was glass/slate in rows of apex construction, my mother was employed as a "doper" she applied the cellulose paint directly onto the fabric outer covering. The finished products were collected by RAF "Queen Mary" long wheelbase vehicles - each one duly sheeted over with camouflged canvas and securly roped down - the actual loading bay is still in existance in the only part of the building thats left - the single mill structure was demolished some years ago the outer walls were reduced so that they are now the perimeter wall to the vacant land,the access/emergency doors are still there but bricked up.

Earnshaw Bros & Booth also made kitchen furniture in the same factory under the trade name of "New Line" - they also made aircraft recognition models in fine detail finished in dark grey matt paint and as a seven year old child obtaining one of these planes was a great thrill as there were no toys for sale during the bleak war years and there hangs another tale, as these planes were on the secret list and had to be obtained by illegal means - more if you want it - we lived in the street right next to the factory and my bedroom overlooked the top of the factory roof. Trust this may be of help, best regards, Alan Sutcliffe.

Tuesday, 20 January, 2009  
Blogger Unknown said...

For Frank Mee...Just joined the forum and this thread goes back a long while but my father worked at F-Hill and Sons calculating the twist on the propellers and then drawing it up for the machines to create the blades. Any help with getting pictures of the factory and any more detail on it from 1939 onwards would be greatly received.

Tobin Sinclair (

Tuesday, 19 October, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

After the end of the war, it must have been 1946 (I was 6), my parents took me on my first summer holiday to St. Annes. There, we met a family from Burnley with two children. The daughter was a little older than me and the son was 3 years younger. Our late fathers were both keen anglers and the families struck up a long lasting friendship which survives to this day. Their father was one of the Earnshaw family of Earnshaw Brothers and Booth and I was taken to visit the factory several times. However, I never heard anything of the Horsa glider connection but have been interested to hear of it as 10 year later I joined the Royal Observer Corps. Subsequently, when I got married, Nu-Lyne kitchen units were installed in my dad's and my houses.

Thursday, 17 May, 2012  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting blog, great to get the personal histories. My grandfather, Wilfred May started as a roofing carpenter, but was one of the newly formed group of directors of F Hills & Sons when he moved with his family from Yarm to Manchester from 1939 to 1944 when the war work began there. He never discussed anything that had been done during that period, although he brought back a finely polished propellor about 5 feet long and there was a mention of special '3D' plywood. I still have the propellor. I had never heard of the Jablo propellor or the Praga lightplane. I thought maybe the story about making propellors from wood was a ruse, as I couldn't imagine a modern high-powered fighter plane would use anything other than metal. Wilfred May did go on to invent a way of using spiral wood waste shavings to join two thin panels and so make doors and panels which were very rigid, light and cheap. This is now done with honeycomb cardboard and so on, but it may be that he worked on this idea during the war and didn't want to spoil his chances of gaining a patent for it!

Wednesday, 12 March, 2014  

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